On March 24 2021, the European Commission has adopted the first comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, as well as a proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee, to promote equal opportunities for children at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In preparation of both initiatives, the Commission, in association with leading global child rights organisations, collected the views of over 10,000 children.
EU Strategy: six thematic areas and proposed action
- Children as agents of change in democratic life
- The right of children to realise their full potential no matter their social background
- The right of children to be free from violence
- The right of children to child-friendly justice
- The right of children to safely navigate the digital environment and harness its opportunities
- The rights of children across the globe
The new European Child Guarantee
In the words of the Commission, in 2019, almost 18 million children in the EU (22.2% of the child population) lived in households at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This leads to an intergenerational cycle of disadvantage, with profound and long‐term effects on children. The European Child Guarantee aims to break this cycle and promote equal opportunities by guaranteeing access to a set of key services for children in need (under 18 year olds at risk of poverty or social exclusion).
Under the European Child Guarantee, it is recommended to Member States to provide free and effective access for children in need to:
- early childhood education and care – for example, avoid segregated classes;
- education and school-based activities – for example, adequate equipment for distance learning, and school trips;
- at least one healthy meal each school day; and
- healthcare – for example, facilitating access to medical examinations and health screening programmes.
These services should be free of charge and readily available to children in need.
The Commission also recommends that Member States provide children in need with effective access to healthy nutrition and adequate housing: For example, children should receive healthy meals also outside of school days, and homeless children and their families should have access to adequate accommodation.
When identifying children in need and designing their national measures, Member States should take into account the specific needs of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as those experiencing homelessness, disabilities, those with precarious family situations, a migrant background, a minority racial or ethnic background or those in alternative care.
EU funding to support these actions is available under the European Social Fund Plus (EFS+), which finances projects that promote social inclusion, fight poverty and invest in people, as well as the European Regional Development Fund, InvestEU, and the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
The implementation of the EU Strategy will be monitored at EU and national levels, and the Commission will report back on progress at the annual EU Forum on the Rights of the Child. An evaluation of the strategy will be conducted at the end of 2024, with the participation of children.
The Commission calls on Member States to swiftly adopt the proposal for the Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee. Within six months after its adoption, governments are encouraged to submit to the Commission national action plans on how to implement it. The Commission will monitor progress through the European Semester and issue, where necessary, country-specific recommendations.